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Facebook: Search (or stalk) the Web

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If you are reading this, you have most likely been Facebook stalked and/or have Facebook stalked someone else. You shouldn’t be too surprised. This isn’t new news, and on that note, locking down the privacy settings on your Facebook assets (personal information, photos, videos, notes, applications, etc) isn’t either. But even when you take these measures to ensure you’re privacy, let me assure you that you still won’t be free – “Facebook has [you] by the balls”  - Nick Barron. Since Facebook’s recent privacy setting enhancement bungle, there have been mass quantities of chatter over the privacy implications on individual users, as well as the sub-standard default privacy settings offered by Facebook. So successful has Facebook been in implementing this new privacy ‘curtain’, that they even managed to expose their own CEO.

Whilst much of the attention has been geared towards these privacy policies, I’ve noticed that one feature has managed to slip under the radar. I’ve only recently noticed this feature (call me a slow adopter) which is known as, Search the Web or Web Results. According to Facebook's Help Centre, “The web search feature is powered by Live Search. Please note that the result lists websites and content from across the internet, not just Facebook”.

And so, readers...this is why, no matter how many Facebook privacy hoops you jump through, Facebook will still have you by the balls. No matter how hard you try to protect your privacy within Facebook, this Search the Web feature allows anyone to find information on you, information that extends far beyond Facebook. Examples of other social media platforms that were returned in my searches include The Usual Suspects: Twitter, Myspace, LinkedIn, Last.fm as well as the unexpected: FriendFeed and Gowalla (similar to FourSquare). Facebook's Search the Web even returns the individual's posts/comments on other websites as search results (TechCrunch, ReadWriteWeb and Mashable were a few that I stumbled across).

What does this mean for you?

Your content and information that you originally thought to be safe and shielded from the rest of the world may not be anymore. Facebook’s Search the Web functionality adds to the plethora of existing tools in the typical Facebook stalker’s arsenal...and from what I've seen of it, it's a very powerful & revealing tool to have.

I suggest you go search up your name (especially if you have a unique name) and trawl through each search result. I’m sure you’ll be surprised (and most likely, not in the good way).

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- If you're interested in reading more about Facebook and the privacy issues surrounding it, I recommend you read 'Open Wide, Come Inside, It's your Facebook' and 'Maybe You're Protected?' written by Jess Nichols. I found these a great read and a great motivator to increase the privacy settings on my Facebook account.